Purdue University Philosophy Philosophical Thread Discussion Question
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Translated by Cathal Woods and Ryan Pack
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Socrates (So): Why have you come at this hour, Crito? Or isn’t it still
Crito (Cr): It certainly is.
So: About what time is it?
Cr: Just before dawn.
So: I’m surprised that the prison guard was willing to admit you.
Cr: He is used to me by now, Socrates, since I visit here so often.
And besides, I have done him a good turn.
So: Did you get here just now or a while ago?
Cr: Quite a while ago.
So: So how come you didn’t you wake me up immediately, but sat
by in silence?
Cr: By Zeus, no, Socrates. I wish I myself were not so sleepless and
sorrowful, and so I have been marveling at you, when I see how peacefully
you’ve been sleeping. I deliberately didn’t wake you so that you would
pass the time as peacefully as possible. Even before now I have often
thought you fortunate on account of your demeanor towards your entire
life, and even more so in your present misfortune, how easily and calmly
you bear it.
So: It’s because it would be out of tune, Crito, to be angry at my age
if I must finally die.
Cr: And yet others of your age, Socrates, have been caught up in
such misfortunes, but their age does not prevent any of them from being
angry at his fate.
So: That’s true. But why did you come so early?
Cr: Carrying troubling news, Socrates, though not for you, as it
appears, but deeply troubling for me and all of your friends, and I, it
seems, am among the most heavily burdened.
So: What is it? Has the ship arrived from Delos,* upon whose arrival
I must die?
Cr: No, it hasn’t arrived, but it looks like it will arrive today, based
on what some people who have come from Sounion* report, who left it
there. It’s clear from this that it will arrive today, and you will have to end
your life tomorrow, Socrates.
So: May it be for the best, Crito. If this pleases the gods, so be it.
However, I don’t think it will come today.
Cr: Where do you get your evidence for this?
So: I will tell you. I must be put to death sometime the day after the
Cr: That’s what the authorities in these matters say, at least.
So: In that case, I don’t think it will arrive this coming day, but the
next. My evidence is something I saw in a dream a little while ago during
the night. It’s likely that you chose a very good time not to wake me.
Cr: Well, what was the dream?
So: A woman appeared, coming towards me, fine and goodlooking, wearing white clothing. She called to me and said, “Socrates, you
shall arrive in fertile Phthia on the third day.”*
Cr: What a strange dream, Socrates.
So: But obvious, at least as it appears to me, Crito.
Cr: Too obvious, perhaps. But, my supernatural Socrates, even now
listen to me and be saved. I think that if you die it won’t just be one
misfortune. Apart from being separated from the kind of friend the like of
which I will never find again, many people, moreover, who do not know
me and you well will think that I could have saved you if I were willing to
spend the money, but that I didn’t care to. And wouldn’t this indeed be the
most shameful reputation, that I would seem to value money above
friends? For the many will not believe that it was you yourself who
refused to leave here, even though we were urging you to.
So: But why should we, blessed Crito, care so much about the
opinion of the many? The best people, who are more deserving of our
attention, will believe that the matter was handled in just the way it was.
Cr: But surely you see, Socrates, that we must pay attention to the
opinion of the many, too. The present circumstances make it clear that the
many can inflict not just the least of evils but practically the greatest, when
one has been slandered amongst them.
So: If they were of any use, Crito, the many would be able to do the
greatest evils, and so they would also be able to do the greatest goods, and
that would be fine. But as it is they can do neither, since they cannot make
a man either wise or foolish, but they do just whatever occurs to them.
Cr: Well, let’s leave that there. But tell me this, Socrates. You’re not
worried, are you, about me and your other friends, how, if you were to
leave here, the informers would make trouble for us, about how we stole
you away from here, and we would be compelled either to give up all our
property or a good deal of money, or suffer some other punishment at
their hands? If you have any such fear, let it go, because it is our obligation
to run this risk in saving you and even greater ones if necessary. So trust
me and do not refuse.
So: I certainly am worried about these things, Crito, and lots of
Cr: Well don’t fear them. Indeed, some people only need to be given
a little silver and they’re willing to rescue you and get you out of here. And
on top of that, don’t you see how cheap those informers are and that we
wouldn’t need to spend a lot of money on them? My money is at your
disposal, and is, I think, sufficient. Furthermore, even if, because of some
concern for me, you think you shouldn’t spend my money, there are these
visitors here who are prepared to spend theirs. One of them has brought
enough silver for this very purpose, Simmias of Thebes, and Kebes too is
willing, and very many others. So, as I say, don’t give up on saving
yourself because you are uneasy about these things.
And don’t let what you said in the court get to you, that you
wouldn’t know what to do with yourself as an exile. In many places,
wherever you go, they would welcome you. And if you want to go to
Thessaly, I have some friends there who will think highly of you and
provide you with safety, so that no one in Thessaly will harass you.
What’s more, Socrates, what you are doing doesn’t seem right to me,
giving yourself up when you could have been saved, ready to have
happen to you what your enemies would urge—and did urge—in their
wish to destroy you.
In addition, I think you are betraying your sons, whom you could
raise and educate, by going away and abandoning them, and, as far as you
are concerned, they can experience whatever happens to come their way,
when it’s likely that as orphans they’ll get the usual treatment of orphans.
One should either not have children or endure the hardship of raising and
educating them, but it looks to me as though you are taking the laziest
path, whereas you must choose the path a good and brave man would
choose, especially when you keep saying that you care about virtue your
whole life long.
So I am ashamed both on your behalf and on behalf of us your
friends, that this whole affair surrounding you will be thought to have
happened due to some cowardice on our part: the hearing of the charge in
court, that it came to trial when it need not have, and the legal contest
itself, how it was carried on, and, as the absurd part of the affair, that by
some badness and cowardice on our part we will be thought to have let
this final act get away from us, we who did not save you, nor you save
yourself, when it was possible and we could have done so if we were of
the slightest use. So see, Socrates, whether this is both evil and shameful,
for you and for us as well. Think over—or rather, there’s no longer time for
thinking but only for deciding—this one consideration, because everything
must be done this coming night; if we hang around any longer it will be
impossible and we’ll no longer be able to. So in every way, Socrates,
believe me and do not refuse.
So: My dear Crito, your eagerness would be worth a lot if it were in
pursuit of something righteous, but the more it is not, the more difficult it
is to deal with. We must therefore examine whether we should do this or
not, because as always, and not just now for the first time, I am the sort of
person who is persuaded in my soul by nothing other than the argument
which seems best to me upon reflection. At present I am not able to
abandon the arguments I previously made, now that this misfortune has
befallen me, but they appear about the same to me, and I defer to and
honor the ones I did previously. If we have nothing better than them to
offer under the present circumstances, rest assured that I will not agree
with you, not if, even more so than at present, the power of the multitude
were to spook us as though we were children, imposing chains and deaths
and monetary fines upon us.
What’s the most reasonable way we can examine this matter? If we
first resume this argument that you give about reputations, whether it was
correct on each occasion when we said that one must pay attention to the
opinions of some people and not to others’? Was this the correct thing to
say before I had to die, whereas now it has become obvious that it was
mentioned instead for the sake of argument and was actually just playing
around and hot air?
I am determined to examine this together with you, Crito, whether
it appears different when I consider it in this condition, or the same, and
whether we should ignore it or be persuaded by it. It is always put like
this, I think, by people who think there is something in it, like I put it just
now: that it is necessary to pay serious attention to some of the opinions
that men hold and not to others. By the gods, Crito, doesn’t this seem
correct to you? Because you, as far as any human can tell, are in no danger
of being executed tomorrow and the present misfortune should not lead
you astray. Have a look, then. Is it fair enough to say that one should not
value every human opinion but only some and not others? And not the
opinions of everyone but of some and not others? What do you say? Isn’t
Cr: Yes, that’s right.
So: Shouldn’t we value the good opinions, and not the worthless
So: Aren’t the good ones the opinions of the wise, while the
worthless ones come from the ignorant?
Cr: Of course.
So: So then, what did we say, again, about cases such as this: should
a man in training, who takes it seriously, pay any heed to the praise and
blame and opinion of everyone, or only to one person, the one who is a
doctor or a trainer?
Cr: Only to the one.
So: So he should fear the criticisms and welcome the praises of that
one person, and not those of the many?
So: He must practice and exercise, and eat and drink, in the way
that seems best to that one person, the trainer and expert, more than to all
the others together.
Cr: That’s right.
So: Well then. If he disobeys this one man and dishonors his
opinion and his praises and instead honors those of the many who know
nothing about it, won’t he suffer some harm?
Cr: How could he not?
So: What is this harm, and what does it tend to do, and in what part
of the disobedient person?
Cr: It’s clear that it’s in the body, since this is what it destroys.
So: Well said. Isn’t it the same with the others, not go to over them
all but in particular justice and injustice and shameful and fine things and
good and bad, which is what our current discussion is about, whether we
must follow the opinion of the many and fear it or instead the opinion of
the one person, if there is someone who has knowledge, whom we must
defer to and fear more than all the others together? If we do not heed his
opinion we will corrupt and harm that part of us which becomes better
with justice and is destroyed by injustice. Or don’t you think so?
Cr: I do indeed, Socrates.
So: Tell me, if we destroy that part of us which is improved by what
is wholesome and corrupted by what is sickening because we do not obey
the opinion of the person who knows, is life worth living when that part is
ruined? This is the body, I suppose. Or not?
So: Then is life worth living with a wretched and corrupt body?
Cr: Not at all.
So: And is life worth living after the part of us which injustice
injures and justice benefits has been corrupted? Or do you think this is
unimportant in comparison with the body, this part of us, whatever it is,
that injustice and justice affect?
Cr: Not at all.
So: But more valuable?
Cr: Much more.
So: So, best of men, we must not pay much heed to what the many
will say to us, but to what the one who knows about just and unjust things
will say, to that one person, and to the truth itself. So you were wrong, at
the beginning, to bring this up, that we must heed the opinion of the many
concerning just things and noble things and good things and their
opposites. “But in spite of that,” someone might declare, “the many can put
us to death.”
Cr: That too is obvious, for someone might say so, Socrates. You’re
So: But, you wonderful fellow, it seems to me that the following
statement, too, which we have been over before, still remains the same as it
did previously. So examine again whether or not it still holds true for you,
that it’s not living that should be our priority, but living well.
Cr: Why, of course it’s still true.
So: And that this is living well and finely and justly, does that
remain true or not?
Cr: It remains true.
So: Therefore, based on what you’ve agreed, we must examine the
following, whether it is just or unjust for me to try to leave here, when I
was not acquitted by the Athenians. And if it seems just let’s try it, and if
not, let’s abandon it. As for the points you make about spending money
and reputation and the upbringing of children, Crito, I suspect that these
are really questions belonging to people who would casually put someone
to death and resurrect him, if they could, without any thought—to the
members of the multitude.
As for us, since the argument requires it, I suppose we should
examine precisely what we just mentioned, whether we will act justly, we
who lead as well as we who are led, by giving money and thanks to those
who will get me out of here, or whether we will in fact act unjustly by
doing all of this. If we think that we’re acting unjustly by doing these
things, I don’t think we should take into consideration whether we will die
if we hold our ground and keep our peace, or anything else we will suffer,
rather than whether we’re acting unjustly.
Cr: I think you put that well, Socrates. See what we should do, then.
So: Let’s look together, my good man, and if at any point you have
an objection to what I am saying, make it and I will persuade you; if not,
you blessed man, finally quit saying the same thing over and over, that I
have to get out of here against the will of the Athenians. I think it is most
important to act with your consent and not against your will. See, then,
that the starting point of the inquiry is laid down to your satisfaction and
try to answer the questions in the way you think best.
Cr: I shall certainly try.
So: Do we say that we should never willingly act unjustly, or that
we should in some instances and not in others? Or is acting unjustly never
good or noble, as we often agreed on previous occasions? Or have all our
previous agreements been overturned in these last few days, and did we
fail to notice long ago, Crito, that at our age we ourselves are no different
from children when we have serious discussions with one another? Or
above all isn’t it the same as was said to us then? Whether the many agree
or not, and whether we must additionally suffer harsher things than these
or gentler, nevertheless acting unjustly is evil and shameful in every way
for the person who does it. Do we say this or not?
Cr: We do.
So: And so one must never act unjustly.
Cr: By no means.
So: And so one should not repay an injustice with an injustice, as
the many think, since one should never act unjustly.
Cr: It appears not.
So: What next? Should one cause harm, Crito, or not?
Cr: Presumably not, Socrates.
So: And then? Is returning a harm for a harm just, as the many say,
or not just?
Cr: Not at all.
So: Because harming a man in any way is no different from doing
Cr: That’s true.
So: One must neither repay an injustice nor cause harm to any man,
no matter what one suffers because of him. And see to it, Crito, that in
agreeing with this you are not agreeing contrary to what you believe,
because I know that few people believe it and would continue to believe it.
And there is no common ground between those who hold this and those
who don’t, but when they see each other’s positions they are bound to
despise one other. So think carefully about whether you yourself agree and
believe it and let us begin thinking from here, that it is never right to act
unjustly or to return an injustice or to retaliate when one has suffered some
harm by repaying the harm. Do you reject or accept this starting principle?
For it still seems good to me now, as it did long ago, but if it looked some
other way to you, speak up and educate me. If you’re sticking to what we
said before, listen to what comes next.
Cr: I do stick to it, and I accept it. Go ahead.
So: Here in turn is the next point. Or rather, I’ll ask you: when
someone has made an agreement with someone else, and it is just, must he
keep to it or betray it?
Cr: He must keep to it.
So: Observe what follows from this. By leaving here without
persuading the city are we doing someone a harm, and those whom we
should least of all harm, or not? And are we keeping to the just agreements
we made, or not?
Cr: I’m unable to answer what you’re asking, Socrates; I don’t know.
So: Well, look at it this way. If the laws and the community of the
city came to us when we were about to run away from here, or whatever it
should be called, and standing over us were to ask, “Tell me, Socrates,
what are you intending to do? By attempting this deed, aren’t you
planning to do nothing other than destroy us, the laws, and the civic
community, as much as you can? Or does it seem possible to you that any
city where the verdicts reached have no force but are made powerless and
corrupted by private citizens could continue to exist and not be in ruins?”
What will we say, Crito, to these questions and others like them?
Because there’s a lot more a person could say, especially an orator, on
behalf of this law we’re destroying, which establishes the verdicts that
have been decided as sovereign. Or will we say to them “The city treated
us unjustly and did not decide the case properly”? Will we say this or
something like it?
Cr: By Zeus, that’s what we’ll say, Socrates.
So: What if the laws then said, “Socrates, did we agree on this, we
and you, to honor the decisions that the city makes?” And if we were
surprised to hear them say this, perhaps they would say, “Socrates, don’t
be surprised at what we’re saying but answer, since you are used to
participating in questioning and answering. Come then, what reason can
you give us and the city for trying to destroy us? Did we not, to begin
with, give birth to you? And wasn’t it through us that your father married
your mother and conceived you? So show those of us, the laws concerning
marriages, what fault you find that keeps them from being good?” “I find
no fault with them,” I would say.
“What about the laws concerning the upbringing and education of
children, by which you too were raised? Or didn’t those of us, the laws
established on this matter, give good instructions when they directed your
father to educate you in the arts and gymnastics?” “They did,” I would say.
“Well, then. Since you have been born and brought up and
educated, could you say that you were not our offspring and slave from
the beginning, both you and your ancestors? And if this is so, do you
suppose that justice between you and us is based on equality, and do you
think that whatever we might try to do to you, it is just for you to do these
things to us in return? Justice between you and your father, or your master
if you happened to have one, was not based on equality, so that you could
not do whatever you had suffered in return, neither speak back when
crossed nor strike back when struck nor many other such things. Will you
be allowed to do this to your homeland and the laws, so that, if we try to
destroy you, thinking this to be just, you will then try to destroy us the
laws and your homeland in return with as much power as you have and
claim that you’re acting justly in doing so, the man who truly cares about
Are you so wise that it has slipped your mind that the homeland is
deserving of more honor and reverence and worship than your mother
and father and all of your other ancestors? And is held in higher esteem
both by the gods and by men of good sense? And that when she is angry
you should show her more respect and compliance and obedience than
your father, and either convince her or do what she commands, and suffer
without complaining if she orders you to suffer something? And that
whether it is to be beaten or imprisoned, or to be wounded or killed if she
leads you into war, you must do it? And that justice is like this, and that
you must not be daunted or withdraw or abandon your position, but at
war and in the courts and everywhere you must do what the city and the
homeland orders, or convince her by appealing to what is naturally just?
And that it is not holy to use force against one’s mother or father, and it is
so much worse to do so against one’s homeland?” What will we say to this,
Crito? That the laws speak the truth? Or not?
Cr: It looks so to me.
So: “Consider, then, Socrates” the laws might say, “whether we
speak the truth about the following: that it is not just for you to try to do to
us what you’re now attempting. For we gave birth to you, brought you up,
educated you, and gave you and all the other citizens everything we could
that’s good, and yet even so we pronounce that we have given the power
to any Athenian who wishes, when he has been admitted as an adult and
sees the affairs of the city and us the laws and is not pleased with us, to
take his possessions and leave for wherever he wants. And if any among
you wants to live in a colony because we and the city do not satisfy him, or
if he wants to go somewhere else and live as a foreigner, none of us laws
stands in the way or forbids him from taking his possessions with him and
leaving for wherever he wants.
But whoever remains with us, having observed how we decide
lawsuits and take care of other civic matters, we claim that this man by his
action has now made an agreement with us to do what we command him
to do, and we claim that anyone who does not obey is guilty three times
over, because he disobeys us who gave birth to him, and who raised him,
and because, despite agreeing to be subject to us, he does not obey us or
persuade us if we are doing something improper, and although we give
him an alternative and don’t angrily press him to do what we order but
instead we allow either of two possibilities, either to persuade us or to
comply, he does neither of these.
We say that you especially will be liable to these charges, Socrates, if
indeed you carry out your plans, and you not least of the Athenians but
most of all.” If, then, I would say, “How do you mean?”, perhaps they
would scold me justly, saying that I have made this agreement more than
other Athenians. They might say, “Socrates, we have great evidence for
this, that we and the city satisfy you. For you would never have lived here
more than all of the other Athenians unless it seemed particularly good to
you, and you never left the city for a festival, except once to Isthmos, but
never to anywhere else, except on military duty, nor did you ever make
another trip like other Athenians, nor did any urge seize you to get to
know a different city or other laws, but we and our city were sufficient for
So intently did you choose us and agree to be governed by us that,
in particular, because the city was satisfactory to you, you had children in
it. Moreover, at your trial you could have proposed exile, if you had
wished, and what you’re now trying to do to the city without her consent,
you could have done then with her consent. At the time, you prided
yourself on not being angry if you had to die, and you chose death, you
said, in preference to exile. But now you neither feel shame in the face of
those words nor have you any respect for us the laws. By trying to destroy
us you are doing what the most despicable slave would do, trying to run
away contrary to the contract and the agreement by which you agreed to
be governed by us. So answer us first on the particular point of whether or
not we speak the truth in claiming that you agreed to be governed by us in
deed and not merely in words.” What can we say to this, Crito? Mustn’t we
Cr: We must, Socrates.
So: “Aren’t you”, they might say, “going against your contract and
agreement with us ourselves, which you were not forced to agree to nor
deceived about nor compelled to decide upon in a short time but over
seventy years, in which time you could have gone away if we did not
satisfy you and these agreements did not appear just to you. You did not
prefer Lakedaimonia* nor Crete, each of which you claim is well-governed,
nor any other of the Hellenic cities or the foreign ones, but you left it less
than the lame and the blind and the other disabled people. Evidently the
city and also we the laws were so much more pleasing to you than to other
Athenians, for is a city without laws satisfactory to anyone? Now then,
won’t you keep to your agreement? You will, if you are convinced by us, at
any rate, Socrates; and at least you won’t look ridiculous by leaving the
“Just think about what good it would do you and your friends if
you break it and do wrong in one of these ways. It’s pretty clear that your
friends will risk exile along with you and disenfranchisement from the city
and confiscation of their property. And if you first go to one of the closest
cities, to Thebes or to Megara—since both are well-governed—you would
be an enemy, Socrates, of those governments, and all those who care about
their cities will regard you suspiciously, thinking that you are a destroyer
of the laws. And you will confirm the opinion of the judges in thinking
that they judged the case correctly, since whoever is a destroyer of the laws
would certainly be considered in some way a destroyer of young and
“Will you flee, then, from well-governed cities and from the most
civilized people? Is it worth it to you to live like this? Will you associate
with them, Socrates, and feel no shame when talking with them? What will
you say, Socrates—what you said here, that virtue and justice are most
valuable for humans and lawfulness and the laws? And you don’t think
the conduct of this Socrates will appear shameful? One should think so.
“But will you leave these places and go to Crito’s friends in
Thessaly, since there is plenty of disorder and disobedience there? They
might listen with pleasure to you, about how you amusingly ran away
from prison wearing some costume or a peasant’s vest or something else of
the sort that runaways typically dress themselves in, altering your
appearance. But still, will no one say that an old man, who probably only
has a short time left in his life, was so greedy in his desire to live that he
dared to violated the greatest laws? Perhaps not, if you do not annoy
anyone. But if you do, Socrates, you will hear many dishonorable things
about yourself. You will surely spend your life sucking up to everyone and
being a slave. What else will you do but feast in Thessaly, as though you
had traveled to Thessaly for dinner? And those speeches, the ones about
justice and the other virtues, where will they be?
“Is it for the sake of your children that you want to live, so that you
can raise and educate them? What are you going do, in that case? You’ll
raise and educate them by bringing them to Thessaly and making them
outsiders, so that they will enjoy that benefit too? Or if not that, will they
grow up better if they are raised and educated with you alive but away
from them, because your friends will take care of them? Is it that if you go
to Thessaly, they’ll look after them, but if you go to Hades they won’t? If
those who claim to be your friends are any good, you must believe they
“So be convinced by we who brought you up, Socrates, and do not
put children or life or anything else ahead of justice, so that when you go
to Hades you will be able to provide all this as your defense to those who
rule there. Since neither in this world, nor in the next when you arrive, will
this action be thought better or more just or more pious for you and your
friends to do. But as it is you leave us, if indeed you depart, having been
done an injustice not by us, the laws, but by men. If you return the
injustice, however, and repay the harm and flee in shame, having violated
your agreement and contract with us and harmed those who least of all
should be harmed, yourself, your friends, your homeland, and us, we will
make life hard for you while you’re alive, and then our brothers, the laws
in Hades, will not receive you favorably, knowing that you also tried to
destroy us as far as you were able. So do not be persuaded by Crito to do
what he says instead of what we say.”
Rest assured, my dear friend Crito, that this is what I seem to hear,
just as the Korubantes* seem to hear the pipes, and this sound, from these
words, resonates within me and makes me unable to hear anything else. So
be aware that, based on what I currently believe, at least, if you speak in
opposition to this, you will speak in vain. Nevertheless, if you honestly
think you can do something more, speak.
Cr: No, Socrates. I am unable to speak.
So: Then let it be, Crito, and let us act in this way, since this is where
the god leads us.
A star (*) in the text indicates a note.
ship arrived from Delos. Socrates has spent a month in prison since the trial
because he could not be executed until a religious mission returned from
the island of Delos, the mythical birth-place of Artemis and Apollo and
where Theseus slayed the minotaur, before returning to Athens.
Sounion. The tip of Attica; a headland 200 feet above sea-level bearing a
temple to Poseidon.
you shall arrive in fertile Phthia on the third day. Iliad 9.363. Achilles is
threatening to leave Troy and return home.
Korubantes. In the cult of Kubele, worshippers danced as though possessed.